Annual Reminders: 50 years in LGBT Rights In Philadelphia

3.2-2.06-1966-Barbara-Gittings-copyHere is an excerpt of a fantastic timeline from the William Way LGBT Community Center highlighting the 50th year celebration of the Annual Reminders historic protests and subsequent LGBT Philadelphia history.

On July 4, 1965, a small group of courageous LGBT activists picketed for justice in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Women wore dresses and men were conservatively clad in suits and ties so they would all appear “normal.” They carried picket signs that unashamedly demanded equality for gays and lesbians from a society that treated them as criminals and deviants. These public demonstrations,  repeated every year on the Fourth of July until 1969, were sparked by one person’s frustrated effort to bring a discrimination case before the Supreme Court of the United States. They would become the first sustained national effort to focus attention on the discrimination faced by gay people; they were a catalyst for future generations of LGBT Americans to organize for equality.

For the full time graphic time line click here.

More Annual Reminders resources available below:

Speaking Out for Equality: An exhibition of LGBT Rights at the National Constitution Center

Philly Pride Presents the Annual Reminders, 50th Celebration

LGBT 50th Anniversary

30 LGBT publications challenge historians to get LGBT history ‘straight’

Courtesy of the QNotes magazine

In what is hailed as the largest gay history project of its kind in the nation, 30 U.S. publications serving lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people will celebrate October as Gay History Month by presenting the series, “We are America: How members of the LGBT community helped create the U.S.A.”

This groundbreaking month-long series — available at qnotes throughout the month in print and online  at — will provide compelling evidence that our founding fathers not only welcomed LGBT people to helped create this country, but without the contributions made by LGBT people, American history might have turned out quite differently.

“Throughout our nation’s 235-year history, historians have kept LGBT people and issues in the closet,” Project Coordinator and Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal asserts. “We intend to break that closet door down forever.”

Among the upcoming news features, are these captivating findings:

  • Benjamin Franklin was the first U.S. military recruiter to enlist a gay man into America’s revolutionary ranks.
  • George Washington, in all probability, was the first American leader to offer domestic partner support for a same-sex couple. During the winter hardships at Valley Forge, General Washington made sure that a same-sex couple had access to housing when it was at its greatest premium. And when faced with a potential homosexual scandal at Valley Forge, he chose a more merciful course at that vulnerable time and embarrassed the officer accused of sodomy rather than imposing the death sentence as Thomas Jefferson demanded.
  • An African-American gay man, George Middleton, led a troop of black men in the American Revolution.
  • Several women dressed as men to enlist in America’s fledgling revolutionary army. After the war, when they could have returned to living again as women, some instead chose to live out their lives as men.
  • A lesbian, Katharine Lee Bates, wrote one of America’s most beloved patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful.”
  • The director of Wheatland, the home and presidential library of the unmarried President James Buchanan, discloses for the first time that it is impossible to refute that Buchanan might have been gay. In an effort to spur historians to expand their research on this unanswered question, the Wheatland library also has taken down the portrait of Ann Coleman, the one woman Buchanan was ever known to romance.
  • Following the historic repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it might surprise many Americans that the individual often considered the father of the United States military was a gay man: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. He wrote the “Revolutionary War Drill Manual” and introduced drills, tactics and discipline to the rag-tag militia, which culminated in our independence and victory over the British.
  • Readers will also be enthralled by the ongoing historical inquiry whether President Lincoln preferred men over women. Many will be surprised to learn, for example that as a young man, Abraham Lincoln might have been one of the first well-known Americans to write a boy-marries-boy poem in 1829.

The combined print run for this innovative historic coverage will be over 650,000 copies. The 30 newspapers and magazines are found in every major city in America and, with our web traffic, the reach will be in the millions.

Among those participating are leading LGBT publications in: Atlanta (GAY VOICE), Baltimore (OUT LOUD), Charlotte (Q NOTES), Chicago (WINDY CITY TIMES), Cleveland (GAY PEOPLE’S CHOICE), Dallas (DALLAS VOICE), Denver (OUT FRONT), Detroit BETWEEN LINES), Harrisburg (CENTRAL VOICE), Houston (MONTROSE STAR), Las Vegas (Q VEGAS), Los Angeles (FRONTIERS IN LA), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (SOUTH FLORIDA GAY NEWS), Milwaukee (WISCONSIN GAZETTE), Minneapolis/St. Paul (LAVENDER MAGAZINE), Nashville (OUT & ABOUT), New Orleans (AMBUSH), Philadelphia (PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS), Phoenix (ECHO MAGAZINE), Pittsburgh (PITTSBURGH’S OUT), Orlando (WATERMARK), Portland (JUST OUT), Sacramento (OUTWORD), Salt Lake City (Q SALT LAKE), San Diego (GAY SAN DIEGO), San Francisco (BAY AREA REPORTER), Seattle (SEATTLE GAY NEWS), Tampa (WATERMARK), Washington D.C. (WASHINGTON BLADE) and Boston (BAY WINDOWS). We’re also happy to announce that our web partner this year is the award-winning BILERICO PROJECT.

Tourism spot explaining Gay History in Philadelphia

This short video, narated by PGN publisher Mark Segal, was produced by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, discussing some of the role of LGBT history in Philadelphia and its relevance to Philadelphia as a historical tourist destination.

Video courtesy of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.


Mr. President, Washington and Franklin thank you

by Mark Segal

When President Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he might have felt the ghosts of Founding Fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin smiling over his shoulder. They might have even whispered in his ear, “It’s about time.”

History clearly recalls that the Revolutionary Army was a rag-tag band of men with little to no military training. We fumbled through the beginning of the war of independence with lack of training, conduct and organization. Washington knew that, without help, the Colonies would lose. Since Washington himself was the best this nation had, he looked to Europe for someone who could bring order to the troops. To that end, Washington wrote the Colonies’ representative in Paris at the time, Franklin, to see what he could find.
Franklin learned of a Prussian military genius, Lt. Gen. Friederich von Steuben, who’d had a string of successes with numerous armies across Europe. There was one problem: Various kingdoms of Europe had asked von Steuben to depart because of his “affections for members of his own sex.” And while Franklin was interviewing him, the situation became somewhat hectic as members of the French clergy decided to make a crusade and drum him out of France.

Franklin had a choice here, and he decided von Steuben’s expertise was more important than his sexual orientation. He and another colony representative, Silas Deane, acted quickly before the clergy could deport von Stuben and sent him to the Colonies to serve with Washington.

Once the lieutenant was here, Washington was concerned about von Steuben’s lack of English, so he appointed two of his officers who spoke French to work as translators. One of those officers was Alexander Hamilton and the other was his close friend Henry Laurens. Some historians claim the two were lovers — but that’s another column.

Washington and Franklin’s trust in von Steuben was realized as he taught the troops the essentials of military drills, tactics and disciplines, including how to effectively use a bayonet and organizing a military camp. He authored the “Revolutionary War Drill Manual,” which became the standard drill manual until the War of 1812, and served as Washington’s chief of staff in the final years of the Revolutionary War. He was part of Washington’s inner circle, and a major factor in the victory of the Colonies. (Read an extensive article about von Steuben here, including a very touching letter from George Washington, the last letter that Washington wrote as President of the United States.)

And that, my friends, is why gay history is important. And a fun read.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having recently received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from the 2,000-member Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Article courtesy of Outword magazine.

VIEWS: Uncovering America’s gay history

by Mark Segal
This week’s Philadelphia Gay News ( PGN ) , along with 30 newspapers across the country, will begin to celebrate October’s as Gay History Month.

This is the largest gay history project of any type, anywhere ever: Our combined print run alone is over 650,000. The 30 newspapers and magazines are in every major city in the United States and, with our web traffic, the numbers are staggering. Our newspaper has been involved with this project since the beginning and, each year, I sometimes feel that the community doesn’t really care. But all of a sudden this year, there is enthusiasm like I’ve never seen before. And that is borne out with those numbers. And with what the writers discovered. We clearly make the case that historians have hidden—closeted—the LGBT community’s contributions to building and preserving this country.

This year, there are no living celebrities involved with the project. In past years, we’ve had exclusive interviews with Sir Elton John, Congressman Barney Frank, tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Billy Jean King, along with a guy by the name of Barack Obama.

This year’s theme is “We are America,” how the LGBT community and its allies founded a nation. That’s the U.S.A. we’re talking about. And can bet Rick Perry a three-dollar bill that, after reading this series, you’ll never allow a conservative to say “Our Founding Fathers did not have gay people in mind when they formed this country.” The Founding Fathers very much knew of—even recruited—those who pushed the boundaries of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Here are some humorous examples from the series—all true.

You’ll discover, starting next week, Benjamin Franklin was the first U.S. military recruiter who enlisted a gay man into the Revolutionary Army.

George Washington in all probability was the first American to offer domestic-partner rights. He gave housing to a known homosexual couple when housing was a premium at Valley Forge. And when faced with a homosexual scandal at Valley Forge, he took the least harmful course of action and embarrassed the officer accused of sodomy rather than giving him the death sentence as Thomas Jefferson demanded.

How about the African-American gay man who lead a troop of black men in the Revolution?

Or the women who dressed as men to enlist in the Colonial Army? After the war, when they could have taken off the drag, some chose to live out their lives as men.

Do you know the lesbian who wrote one of the country’s most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful?”

You’ll also read about the ongoing debate of whether President Lincoln preferred men over women. Many historians have clearly held a biased view of Lincoln, dismissing habits that suggest his true orientation.

And we showcase another gay president—and his partner.

And then there’s the gay man wrote the drill book and maneuvers that brought order to a rag tag Revolutionary Army and led us to victory.

This project has been a labor of love and our writers from across the country deserve our gratitude. So, all through October, read PGN’s salute to our community’s history and take pride that your community was among those who founded and kept this country together.

Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at .

coutesy of the Windy City Times

Phila. Gay News articles examine homosexuality in U.S. history

Article excerpted

SOME DAYS, Mark Segal writes about gay history. Other days, he makes it.

As leader of the “Gay Raiders” activist group in 1973, Segal forced the gay-rights movement into the national spotlight by running in front of the cameras during a live broadcast of “CBS Evening News” with Walter Cronkite.

Two years later, he founded the Philadelphia Gay News, a weekly newspaper targeting the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. He still publishes it.

So when Segal heard some tea-party types on TV last year saying the Founding Fathers didn’t have homosexuals in mind when they formed the United States, he started plotting a response.

What, you thought he’d keep quiet?

“I consider myself a patriot. I love my country,” said Segal, 60, a Queen Village resident known to many as the dean of gay American journalism. “When you tell me the Founding Fathers didn’t want us, you just hurt me pretty badly.”

Now, Segal has gone to print with a monthlong, coast-to-coast retort, a series of articles running in his newspaper and 30 other publications around the country examining the sexuality of major figures in U.S. history and how they treated homosexuals.

The combined print run for the series – “We are America: How members of the LGBT community helped create the U.S.A.” – is expected to exceed 650,000 copies.

“We’re telling historians to get their history straight,” Segal said. “For too long, they’ve put gay people in the closet.”

Segal and a small team of writers spent the last year devouring history books and sifting through the letters, diaries and poems of politicians and patriots like time-traveling TMZ reporters. Their stories read like retrospective gossip columns infused with scholarly research:

Benjamin Franklin? Gay-friendly ambassador.

James Buchanan? Dreadful president but probably America’s first gay one.

William Rufus King? They called the eventual vice president “Mrs. Buchanan” and “Aunt Fancy” for a reason.

George Washington? Straight, but way ahead of his time regarding gays in the military.

Abraham Lincoln? Closeted gay. Walt Whitman’s gaydar was beeping.

Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben? Military genius. Totally gay.

“Don’t you dare say the Founding Fathers didn’t have us in mind,” Segal said. “Not only did we help create this country, but it was a gay president – at least I believe he was gay – who kept this nation together.”

Social conservatives were hyperventilating before the first installment of the series hit the streets last week. The backlash will likely intensify today, when the Philadelphia Gay News publishes a piece arguing that Americans essentially owe their freedom to a gay man.

“If Von Steuben hadn’t come to the United States, there would be no United States,” Segal said.

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben, a former captain in the Prussian army whom Franklin had recommended to Washington, is credited with bringing European-style military tactics and training to the Continental Army at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

At least according to Segal, who says there is ample evidence showing that Steuben had homosexual relationships in Europe and likely continued his gay lifestyle in the United States. Neither Washington nor Franklin seemed to have a problem with it, Segal said.

This stuff is borderline blasphemy to God-‘n’-guns social conservatives still stinging from last month’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t-tell,” the 1993 law that banned openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the military.

“It’s just tawdry to go around and make up historical narrative to suit your contemporary agenda,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at the American Family Association. “They’re trying to drag the Founding Fathers by their tri-corner hats and turn them into gay advocates. That’s laughable.”

“Throw it in the trash bin,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, which seeks to thwart the “agendas of civilian feminists and homosexual activists.”

“It smacks of a desperate attempt to sully the memory of great men,” Donnelly said. “And this is being done by men who are not great. They have an ideology, and to do this is just beneath contempt.”

But Paul Lockhart, a Wright State University history professor and author of “The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army,” said homosexual relationships were not unusual in the Prussian officer corps. The jury is still out on whether Steuben was gay, he said.

“I don’t doubt that Steuben was probably part of that culture,” Lockhart said. He doubts, however, that Steuben’s close relationships with his male aides in America can be used to strengthen the argument that he was gay. Correspondence between straight men was generally more affectionate then.

“When dealing with people living in the 18th century, sometimes it’s hard to attach 21st-century sexual-identification labels to them,” Lockhart said.

Later this month, which is Gay History Month, Segal’s paper and the participating LGBT publications will run articles about other historical figures, including Lincoln.

“My theory is Abe Lincoln was like a lot of other Republican politicians – a closeted gay man,” Segal said. “But in those days you could go to jail or be killed for being gay.”

Many of these claims aren’t new. They’ve been written about before, but often in passing, so they remain mostly on the fringes of American history. Segal is trying to get historians to review them in a more serious light.

This whole debate – which, by the way, is exactly what Segal had intended – is irrelevant to people like Al Taubenberger, chairman of the Steuben Day Observance Association, which holds an annual parade on Frankford Avenue celebrating Steuben and other German-American patriots.

“To be very direct about it, nobody really cares,” Taubenberger, a Republican running for City Council, said of Steuben’s sexual orientation. “He knew how to fight. He was a great man and he did great things.”

Full article available from the Philadelphia Daily News

courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News

October 13, 2011|BY WILLIAM BENDER, 215-854-5255